Discovery Point Blog
Raising Grateful Children
When you love your children to pieces, you just want to give them the world. Seeing their eyes light up with happiness about a new experience or toy brings you joy in return. However, there are sure to be times when your generosity is not reciprocated. At some point, you may realize the one gift you’ve yet to give your child is a deep understanding of the importance of gratitude.
In our modern society, entitlement and ungratefulness are rampant in all age groups. These days, when getting what we want is so easy, we often lose track of just how fortunate we really are.
There are plenty of scapegoats we can point to, whether it be social media, pervasive advertising, or the convenience of new technologies. However, the truth is gratitude is a practice. Many of us have gotten a little rusty at this practice over the years. Furthermore, we often work harder to reduce friction in our children’s lives than to cultivate gratitude in their hearts.
Cultivating a Gratitude Practice with Your Children
Raising your children to be grateful will not only make them more enjoyable to be around, it will also have a positive impact on both their health and well-being. Studies have shown that focusing on what we’re grateful for brings about a greater level of happiness and an overall feeling of fulfillment.
Of course, understanding why gratitude is so important is one thing. Teaching and practicing gratitude on a regular basis is a whole different story.
So how can you encourage your children to appreciate their quality of life and the people around them? It starts by showing them how it’s done through your own words and actions.
Modeling gratitude is crucial to raising grateful children. When children witness gratitude being practiced firsthand, they see how being gracious and appreciative positively influences people around them.
By putting gratitude into action yourself, you’ll also gain credibility. “Do as I say, not as I do” simply won’t cut it in this situation. Plus, children are more likely to adopt principles they see you follow without having to explicitly be taught. You’ll lay important groundwork for the future when you make gratitude an integral part of your own daily life.
Next time you feel the itch to complain about something, try a simple thought reversal activity. If it’s hot and sticky out, rather than saying “It’s awful outside!” try “How fortunate we are to have sunny weather!” Or if you’re stuck waiting in line with your child, resist the urge to grumble “What is taking so long?” and in exchange try “I’m glad we get to spend this time together!”
Getting to the Bottom of Entitlement
Understanding why your child has developed a sense of entitlement will help you formulate a better, more effective strategy for encouraging them to be grateful. Unrealistic expectations are the main indicator a child – or person of any age, for that matter – has become entitled. These expectations often result from constantly having their demands met.
Over-indulging, over-praising, and over-protecting all play a role in fostering a sense of entitlement in children. By engaging in these acts of over-parenting, you may be cushioning your children from experiencing uncomfortable feelings, allowing them to form an unrealistic idea of how the world works.
However, children who have everything they want aren’t the only ones who can develop a sense of entitlement. Those who have less than others their age may also display entitled behavior when they feel they deserve to have the same things as their peers.
Making Gratitude a Daily Activity
Even with something as abstract as gratitude, practice makes perfect. Children learn through repetition, and learning values like gratitude is no exception. There are many ways you can make gratitude a daily activity for your family. Doing so will ensure your children are actively engaging in this practice and shows them how we can be grateful for just about everything in life – from toys and relationships to a roof over our heads.
A great activity to facilitate a daily gratitude practice is a gratitude journal. You can purchase a gratitude journal containing prompts, quotes, and devotionals if you desire, but a simple spiral notebook will also do.
Encourage each family member to write three things they’re grateful for in their journal at the end of each day. It’s fun to review a sampling of these entries as a family once a week at the dinner table. You can even have everyone write a select few on cards and create a family gratitude pin board.
Children can also count their blessings by acknowledging how the important work done by essential community members allows them to maintain their quality of life. Whether your child wants to recognize their teacher, bus driver, postal worker, or garbage disposal worker, the gesture is sure to be appreciated. Hand-written “Thank You” cards are an excellent way for children to express their gratitude, as are drawings and even homemade treats.
Teaching children how to be grateful is one of the many challenges of parenting. That being said, raising appreciative individuals who actively give back to the people around them is incredibly rewarding. You certainly won’t regret the time or energy spent on helping your children lead their lives with gratitude!